Borderline States, Counselling, Dreams, Hope, Madness, Narratives, Religion, Spirituality, The Inner World, The unconscious, Ways of Being

Spiderman meets Allah


I recently watched the latest Spiderman film Homecoming. I was slightly disappointed by it. I enjoyed the Toby McGuire versions. I think because he portrayed more of the conflict he felt about being Spiderman. It seems to me that Tom Holland plays it as a teenager having huge fun as Spiderman but not really having to work overmuch about the implications of this role. But i’m a counsellor versed in psychoanalytic theory, so I may be expecting too much from the film! Although having so said, “Homecoming” does give a good portrayal of Peter Parker’s oedipal conflict .Tony Stark is an excellent father figure whom the young Spiderman has to deal with.

The piece of dialogue that struck me forcibly is this one. Peter wants his Spiderman suit back from Tony Stark who has confiscated it. (Castration anxiety anyone?)

Spiderman “I’m nothing without that suit.”

Tony Stark “If you’re nothing without the suit, you shouldn’t have it.”

(There is a lovely irony here since Tony Stark invented IronMan as his superhero alter ego. He needs his Ironman suit as much as Peter Parker but is unable or unwilling to recognise this need.)

I watched Homecoming around the time of the terrorist attack in Barcelona. The question of “suits” came to mind. As Spiderman Peter Parker can achieve all sorts of things that he cannot do as an ordinary adolescent. He needs to become Spiderman. (There are important questions here about potency and identity.) Like so many other people I wondered how a person can ram a truck into a group of people enjoying an evening out. (And at the risk of death by parenthesis, there are issues of envy here. How dare you be enjoying yourself when I’m not!) Could plain Mouassa Oukabir have driven his car into a group of people, aiming to kill as many as possible. Perhaps not. But as a disciple of a particular Iman, Abdelbaki Es Satty, Oukabir had a suit to wear. Like Peter Parker, it gave him an identity as a perverse “Superhero.” Presumably his version of Islam gave Es Satty a similar kind of suit.

In the closing scenes of Homecoming Peter is offered a brand new Spiderman suit, which he refuses, much to Tony Stark’s bemusement. “That was a test, right?”asks Peter. “Of course”replies Stark. So Peter Parker goes back to  being your average, friendly neighbourhood Spiderman. It seems he has found a way to resolve some of the issues he has with Tony Stark. And, more importantly, with himself. One wishes that “radical Islam” and all its kind could make a similar resolution.





ImageI know that bombers or bomb suspects are not news. Almost every day one reads about yet another suicide bomber who has killed a number of people, including himself. I am not about to try and understand terrorism in 500 words. That would be foolish, arrogant and naive. The three men in the photo are those most recently arrested in Birmingham for allegedly planning a bombing in London that would eclipse the 7/7 event.What shook me was their view that 7/7 ” had gone a bit wrong” because those bombers had not used nails. I found myself shaken by this small detail-more than the bigger picture of a bombing itself, which would have caused enough death and maiming. It is the additional cruelty that shocked me. The idea that additional damage should be done to maximise the effect shook me.

I read the accounts of these men’s conversations and wondered how they became so anti-life. Their inner worlds seemingly dominated by what Freud called the death instinct (thanatos.) Stuart Tremlow in his paper The Relevance of Psychoanalysis to an Understanding of Terrorism has suggested that terrorists may hold ” …an endless resentment about their impossible needs which cannot… be accommodated by the objects of their love or hate.” Perhaps this endlessly unfilled neediness goes someway to explain how the Taliban can shoot a 14 year girl who wants to go to school. The resentment that someone else may have privileges denied to them. More, that it is inconceivable that this girl should receive an education simply as a right when, in fantasy, they are denying themselves all manner of comforts and pleasures. 

Perhaps it is this sense of resentment of others’ privileges-real or perceived- that moved these three men from Birmingham to plan their bombings. And with resentment comes hatred, envy and a wish to destroy in others what one does not have oneself- and by destroying oneself, one ends that neediness. (This self destruction is, of course, the tragedy of any suicide. It says “I am beyond help.You have all failed me. I will provide my own solution. And thereby demonstrate my own omnipotence by meeting the needs you all failed to meet.”)

We do not know very much about these men’s inner lives. We may assume that by adopting an extreme fundamentalism, they were trying to find a  structure and meaning that they had not so far found. We may also assume a deep sense of resentment about their lives as they experienced them. ( To define oneself only as a victim justifies all manner of things thereafter that are inexcusable.One risks becoming the very thing one hates.)

In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy God is recorded as saying to the Israelites “… I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life that both thou and thy seed may live.” (Deut.31:19) The trouble with choosing life is that it is so messy and uncertain. Unlike Death which is absolute.

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